Luminous Lahaina

One block over from the famous 140 year old banyan tree covering two thirds of an acre on the grounds of the courthouse, Lahaina Public Library (LPL) on Maui, HI has one of the most transcendent sites I’ve experienced.  Surrounded by stately Norfolk Island pines, sweet smelling frangipani trees and glorious hibiscus plants, it looks out onto the waterfront and the isle of Lanai across the channel.  Situated right downtown, next to the historic Pioneer Inn, its louvered windows open to catch the sea breezes and fans spinning overhead reminded me of a tropical hotel out of a Graham Greene novel.

Lahaina Public Library with friendly Carlos on duty

Lahaina Public Library with friendly Carlos on duty

The one story building has lava rock pillars out front and wood planks on the underside of the overhanging roof provide a little shade for Carlos Viti, the temporary security guard.
Inside from each opening there are great vistas of the lush foliage on the grounds, the aquamarine sea and the mountains of the Iao Valley State Park and the West Maui Forest Reserve (visible behind and to the right of the library in the shot above).

I met Madeleine, the branch manager, at the main desk.

Madeleine at the circulation desk

Madeleine at the circulation desk

She told me the library had recently been remodeled with donations from several groups including the Rotary Club and the North Beach-West Maui Benefit Fund.  Security gates were added, and they replaced any tall bookshelves with shorter ones that don’t block the drafts which are so vital in keeping the building comfortable since there’s no air conditioning.  The furniture was updated and the old cardboard fans were swapped out with 26 hardy plastic ones.

But in my opinion, the pièce de résistance was installing these gorgeously pigmented sealed concrete floors.

The green and tan floor symbolizes sand and sea and is truly a work of art

Green and tan flooring symbolizes the sand and sea and is truly a work of art

Maui Friends of the Library made significant contributions to the renovations also.  The Friends get much of their cash from operating three used bookstores that sell AV materials, board games, puzzles and new Hawaiiana titles as well as used books. With extensive opening hours and separate shops (Lahaina’s is in a little mall across Front Street), they make enough to publish a glossy quarterly newsletter and help pay for performances, subscriptions, appliances, furniture and fixtures.

I asked Madeleine about the other entrance I’d noticed.  LPL has two main doors, but she explained plants were blocking one as they were currently doing a patron census.  At the same time a materials use count was being taken and pink signs everywhere asked people not to put things away.

Children's room has tot sized upholstered benches and saucers of crayons on the tables to encourage creativity

Children’s room has tot sized upholstered benches and saucers of crayons on the tables to encourage creativity

Though LPL doesn’t have a youth librarian, they have storytimes when the state offers storytellers through cultural programs.  In October there was a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and later on they’ll present Stories of Hawaii and the World and a program on the beloved last ruler of HI, Queen Lili’uokalani.

The Keiki (kids) Area is on the far side of the structure, conveniently situated by the obstructed door, so parents can quickly spirit away crying babies, or let tots play in the garden if they are overly rambunctious.  It’s a pleasant space with Peter Rabbit and bunny sculptures on the shelves, a globe, a book/tape combo case decorated with giraffes and lots of titles that teach the little ones about the heritage of these magical islands.

Hawaiian language children's items

Hawaiian language juvenile books

The Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) is unique among US libraries as it’s basically one entity.   Acting as the main public library, the 50 locations on six islands are its branches and include the joint public and school facilities in remote Hana and on Lanai. Quite an efficient use of resources as it avoids unnecessary replication of so many projects and jobs.  Materials can be borrowed or returned to any library. Non residents can get a three month or five year card for a small fee.  Customers can call or email HSPLS for reference questions or to renew items and can download eBooks and Audiobooks.

Gift wrapped bricks keep the newspapers from blowing away when a powerful wind blows through (or the fans are on high)

Gift wrapped bricks keep newspapers in place when a powerful wind blows through (or the fans are on high)

HSPLS has a Twitter feed and the facebook page advertises a children’s chess club and family movie nights and has event photos, jokes and more.  The website has a variety of interesting bibliographies like Modern Mysteries by Japanese Authors, Scandinavian Crime Novels, Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Workers (HI’s vegetation grows so quickly it obviously needs a lot of care takers).  There are a multitude of databases including the Hawaiian Legends Index, PowerSpeak Languages and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  And Microsoft IT Academy lets users learn about all sorts of computer topics in a number of different languages at their own pace.

LPL has a separate facebook page, WiFi when open, an express computer and four public internet stations, which were all full.  Patrons can reserve one session per week and Madeleine mentioned laptops which can be borrowed for home use are coming and they’ll even have a free T-Mobile WiFi card.

Stunning teak furniture (and they cleverly put tennis balls on the computer chair legs to stop them from scratching the fantastic floor)

Stunning teak furniture (and they cleverly put tennis balls on the computer chair legs to stop them from scratching the gleaming floor)

These lovely slatted armchairs and tables were part of the redecoration.  So much more practical than cloth covered seats – if dirty, you can just hose them off plus they only need to be refinished once a year and teak, frequently used on ships, is termite resistant.

LPL has three employees, all full time.   There’s a library technician, an LA III, and Madeleine.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to take time off.  Since HSPLS is really one big unit, any Maui staffer could sub here, but it’s a 45 minute drive from the island’s biggest town, Kahului, and with only two lanes on the road, accidents have been known to strand substitutes on the west side overnight.

Lower cases keep the air circulating

Lower cases keep the air circulating

LPL keeps its DVDs in these pretty glass cabinets and the four boxes on top of the nonfiction shelves offer lots of Hawaiian music CDs as well as other genres.

With so many windows, there’s little wall space for paintings, but by the restrooms, there’s a small suit of armor and a Gaugin print (so appropriate for this sultry town) donated by a friend of Madeleine’s who owns an art store.  And of course this marvelous cetacean swimming across the pages of a giant tome – whale watching is a big tourist attraction here.

Wooden whale donated by a local artist

Wooden whale donated by a local artist

HSPLS has hot picks bestselling books that go out for one week and gets some money from Hawaiian taxpayers who are given the chance to donate part of their refund when they file.  They take passport applications, register voters and make government documents, tax forms and sign language interpreters for programs available.  Customers can borrow Korean TV series, and vote in the Nene (this goose, the world’s rarest, is HI’s state bird) Award contest – winners are chosen by the children of the state.  Both Molokai and Maui have bookmobiles serving prisons, day cares and schools.

LPL has self check, paperback spindles and a clear Plexiglas shelf of teen titles.

Self check station by the audio books and Manga

Self check station by the audio books and Manga

The state library organizes the programming – its October newsletter, Holo I Mua (move forward, advance) was promoting a funny Canadian storyteller who makes figures from string, a Japanese comedy group, a Hawaiian dance ensemble, a school chorus, book talk, a string quartet, and a woman who tells Japanese folktales and ghost stories.  Youngsters can win prizes and meet their favorite characters at the second Star Wars Reads Day.

Some of the other events proffered are a literary contest, a comic artist, an entertainer on stilts who uses masks and puppets to weave yarns, a living history night, a film discussion series, jazz and guitar concerts and lectures on Christmas ideas, furoshiki (a style of wrapping presents), vegan cooking, oriental medicine, making ukuleles, the new health care law and starting your own business.  Wow, those are some eclectic choices!

You just can't beat the view!

You just can’t beat the view!

Ah Lahaina!  So much beauty and bounty and a wonderful library too!

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3 Responses to Luminous Lahaina

  1. Jan says:

    What a beautiful library!

  2. Pingback: Handy Hanapepe | The Librarian is In

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